Today August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, a day when we advocate for the safety of humanitarian workers around the world. On World Humanitarian Day for 2019, we are focusing on women humanitarians who continue to demonstrate outstanding resourcefulness on the frontline of crises around the world.
For Africa, let World Humanitarian Days be days for unwavering reflection and not for fickle celebrations. Over 80 per cent of international humanitarian action and presence is in Africa.
15 of the 23 countries appealing for humanitarian aid in 2019 are from Africa. There are more international humanitarian footprints in Africa than any other parts of the world. Many of these international humanitarian presences are over 20 years.
Instead of getting out, more African countries are getting into the cycle of international humanitarian presence, Nigeria ‘the giant of Africa’ is the latest, which is truly distressing to me and still a shock to many.
On this World Humanitarian Day, I implore all African countries that have had international humanitarian assistance, presence and action for more than five years to ask why! My wish for this World Humanitarian Day is that international humanitarian assistance would cease to be the main way Africa features in the global arena.
wo critical issues dominate the news in and on Nigeria today. One, popular Nigerian artist Tekno has been called in for questioning by the police and is under investigation over allegation that he was filmed in a glass truck with semi clad girls dancing on poles while he was throwing money at them. Twenty-six-year-old Tekno is refuting accusations by the police that he was shooting the video as an advert for a strip club. Tekno says he was shooting the scene for his music video, which makes sense.
Another major crisis in Nigeria today is that Operatives of a Taskforce in Nigeria’s Niger state on Tuesday shaved the hairs of some youths who were caught wearing `uncomplimentary hairstyles’. According to the news piece, `the youths were apprehended roaming about with funny hairstyles while the officers resolved to shave their hairs after they were interviewed by the officers’.
Nigeria has a population of 200 million people more than half of whom are youth below 30 years, a national unemployment rate that is frankly a national emergency with at least 60 percent of Nigeria’s 200 million living below the poverty line.
Given these dire scenarios above, caused by the theft of the future of over 100 million Nigeria’s youth from the mismanagement and looting of the country’s abundant resources by its older generation, it is deeply disturbing and painful to note that the issue or crises for national authorities in Nigeria at any time would be (1) the `funny’ and `uncomplimentary; hair styles of its youth and (2) the threat of `semi-clad’ young girls dancing on poles.
We may not be able to provide employment and income generating opportunities for our youth, we may have stolen their future, but we must ensure they are not semi-clad while dancing on poles, and they must have the right kind of hairstyles; whatever that may be.
This story and message is by Jeff Galbraith posted on Facebook. The message spoke profoundly to me, hopefully it will speak to you too.
A boat was docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village.
A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish and... asked how long it took to catch them.
"Not very long" they answered in unison.
"Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?"
The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.
"But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take siestas with our wives. In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs.
We have a full life."
The tourist interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."
"And after that?"
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.
Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City!!! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."
"How long would that take?"
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years." replied the tourist.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the tourist, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the fishermen.
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."
"With all due respect sir, but that's exactly what we are doing now. So what's the point wasting twenty-five years?" asked the Mexicans.
And the moral of this story is:
Know where you're going in life, you may already be there! Many times in life, money is not everything.
“Live your life before life becomes lifeless”
By Jeff Galbraith
The issue around CoZA and Busola Dakolo is still trending. For details on this issue please read my blog for July 3, 2019.
The voices speaking up to cast doubt on Bukola Dakolo’s allegation of rape against Pastor Biodum Fatoyimbo are getting bolder. One of these voices is that of Omokri, former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan. He says, ‘Dakolo’s narration of how she was raped is not plausible’ and ‘Pastor Fatoyinbo is too ‘sleek to rape an underage girl’.
The case against Pastor Fatoyumbo is alleged. I hear an investigation is underway and we await the conclusion of what transpired, but I am a triumpher from child sexual abuse, so disagree with Omokri’s claims that Busola’s silence after the rape falsifies her story.
I was 17 and accompanied my mum to his relative’s funeral, he was a family friend and had a beautiful car packed in a secured part of the funeral grounds. It was a wake keeping, i.e. overnight funeral service, I was sleepy, so he suggested I could sleep in his car. No one is allowed to sleep in his car, but he would let me because I was a good student and so well behaved, he said.
My mum insisted, everyone around insisted. I refused but everyone thought I was lucky he would let me sleep in his expensive car.
I cannot say at this point ‘no uncle ??? fondles me, makes me grab his. ??? when we are alone.’ How can anyone believe me that the great Uncle ??! is not who he claims he is. He is one kind of person to my family and many, but different to me when he runs into me alone: and when he pops into my house, which he did often as we were neighbours.
I could not tell anyone that each time he came to my house, or asked that I came to help him with an errand at his house or office, he tried all the time to have sex with me. He exposed himself and begged. When I see him with my parents he presented and conducted himself differently. I was confused. Sometimes he winked at me while talking to my parents.
Omokri, it is very possible that Busola would be confused and not be able to speak after the rape: she was in shock and traumatized, this is the normal reaction. You may not know how men behave in sexual settings, I assume.
You have been quoted as saying that Fatoyinbo is too ‘sleek to rape an underage’, what exactly does that mean? What are you inferring? I am certain there are many ways you can support Fatoyinbo without making statements like these.
I am with Busola. Something happened, whatever it was. she was 17, barely 18 years, whatever happened is rape. Sex with an underage is rape, it does not matter whether anyone is inferring ‘it was consensual or not’. Sex with an underage is rape.
I have had a best friend for over 3 decades, we met on her first day to University in Nigeria. She resumed late, and I had arrived three weeks before she did. The first advice I gave her was the different tactics she would need to dodge the sexual advances of the lecturers.
I was barely 16 years old then, but the first lesson I learnt as an undergraduate student in Nigeria was how to avoid sexual advances from my lecturers. I avoided many classes and had low grades because I refused to succumb. I can recall my English lecturer giving me this quote when he ran into me on the corridor; “He that fights and runs away lives to fight another day.’ I had spent months avoiding his classes and refusing to come to his office on campus in the evenings. I had a C in his class.
This continued with different lecturers for the next 4 years of my undergraduate studies, with a lecturer holding back my final grade unless I had sex with him, I did not. It took my father threatening him in his home town including his community and family to get him to release my result and I graduated late. I wonder about those who did not have a father like mine who literarily declared war on the professor. This experience continued as I sought employment in Lagos through the media houses. A few years after graduation, I went on to take my masters in Canada where the experience was different. I enjoyed my two years in University and graduated with excellent grades.
In late 2012, I was posted to Nigeria to take on an appointment as the United Nations Head of the Humanitarian Advisory Team based in Abuja. Given it is perhaps the most popular Church in Abuja, I attended the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) in 2013, the preacher on that Sunday was a woman who spent the 30 plus minutes’ sermon making references to some `horrible people trying to defame the reputation of the senior pastor of COZA, Biodun Fatoyinbo. I was unaware of what or who she was referring to but noted the congregation cheered as she praised Pastor Fatoyimbo and his wife as a bastion of a virtuous Christian family.
I went home to do my research and realized that COZA’s Senior pastor, Biodun Fatoyimbo had been accused of sexual misconduct by a female member of the congregation, Ese Walter, a few weeks before the Sunday I attended COZA. While admitting that her alleged week-long relationship with Fatoyimbo in London was consensual, she felt manipulated and disappointed by the way the church leadership handled the affair when she came forward with her allegations. I never went back to COZA. I was not comfortable with the message being conveyed by the female pastor in castigating a young lady for allegations of sexual misconduct.
The case is different for the recent allegation of rape (any sex with an underage/child is rape) against Fatoyimba by Busola Dakolo, celebrity photographer and wife of popular Nigerian singer Timi Dakolo. According to the Busola Dakolo, Fatoyimba raped her twice many years ago. These allegations occurred when Dakolo was less than 18 years. Fatoyimbo has denied the allegation just as he did in the case of Ese Walter. Nigerians have been reacting in shock to this recent allegation. Many others have come forward accusing other pastors of not speaking up, while others have declared that they are leaving the COZA.
I listened to the full interview by Busola, and as one who has triumphed from child rape, I get her. I really get her. I know the decades-long trauma and how long and hard the healing process is. In time you realize that a bad thing was done to you and you were not the bad thing, but it takes a while, and an amazing husband like to Timi Dakolo.
In all the reactions that have surrounded this rape allegation against COZA senior pastor Fatoyimba, I will like to put the touch light back on the courage of Busola Dakolo and Ese Walters for speaking up. This is not easy in Nigeria. With the outpouring of condemnation in the case of Busola, we are glad to note that the story is different from the reaction when Walters came forward with her allegation.
Perhaps, we are making progress. But we must not limit our outrage to the religious community, especially the churches. Sexual predators and the rape of minors is prevalent in Nigeria. Sex has become a way some Nigerian men display their power, sadly many young girls have come to associate their worth to how and who they accept that power from sexually.
The message this recent rape allegation sends about the quality of our religious leaders is disheartening. The pain Busola endured all these years following the alleged rape is heart-wrenching, but I commend the courage that has been demonstrated by Busola in coming forward. Let us ensure that the boldness and courage of this amazing and beautiful woman are not in vain.
It is time we challenge the normalcy of the sexual abuse, rape, and exploitation of Nigeria’s young women in Nigeria. I used my experience as an undergraduate student in Nigeria, to demonstrate that the crisis of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation is a crisis in Nigeria. Pastor Fatoyimbo is being accused of what is prevalent and has been accepted as normal in Nigeria: sex with underage women, which is by itself rape whether `consent’ is perceived or not. This is the salient message here. If Fatoyimbo is guilty, he is part of a crisis in the country.
Busola has started a movement, one that must be amplified, we must talk about sexual abuse, rape and start the healing process for our people.
I live 200 meters from where one of the Generals in Ethiopia’s failed coup d'état over the weekend was killed. We believe we heard the gunshots, from our bedrooms. By we, I mean my teenage son and me.
He is not sure he heard it, but I think I did. Maybe it is my imagination, but all day since Sunday the tents have been up at the home of one of the late Generals and hundreds are coming to pay their condolences. From a distance I have paid mine, sending prayers to the families affected, and praying for the souls of the departed.
Like many in the country, I have no clear information to make any conclusion. I stand with Ethiopians in the unease of the situation. The internet has been turned off since Saturday night. This is after it was turned off for almost two weeks for the national examinations. My son is taking online classes, so his classes are interrupted and have been for close to two weeks.
Amid this lack of internet access, I am managing a huge bill from the only internet provider in the country, the bill is for three days roaming in Dubai. The bill is incorrect, but it may not be easy convincing the company of this, it is the only game in town.
I am exhausted. If I sound like I am all over the place, that is because I am all over the place. I am usually the perky positive kind, but watching my son tell me he could not take it any more got me. And my son loves Ethiopia, his favorite dish is injera and doro wot. He walks around puffed up that Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that was never colonized. He talks about the 1986 battle of Adwa when Ethiopia defeated Italy with so much pride you would think he led the Ethiopian army. He has so many Ethiopian friends that we joke he could win an election as the Mayor of Addis Ababa.
But he has been looking at me with worry, just like he did when we were stationed in Abuja, Nigeria and we heard the bomb blast from our bedrooms from a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, on April 14, 2014.
It was the outskirt, but not really an outskirt, we heard the bomb blast from our bedrooms in Asokoro, maybe that too was my imagination. I visited the site the next day and it was less than 10 minutes’ drive away. More than 70 people were killed in that bomb blast.
We looked at each other the same way while watching the news on the Nairobi Westgate Mall attack of September 2013. We watched it from Abuja having been posted out of Nairobi 10 months before. We watched it in shock because Westgate was our favorite social hangout place; the Artscafe at Westgate was our favourite restaurant. We spent all weekends and evenings after work and school at the mall.
Life as an international humanitarian aid work merges the personal and the professional, the public and personal. It can be very difficult to separate these because your work is your place.
But I remain positive about Ethiopia. When I was posted to the country three years ago, my Dad congratulated me saying, `you are off to the capital of Africa.’ The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is here in Addis Ababa, the African Union Commission (AUC) is in Addis Ababa.
As the country went through its political transition last year, my Dad predicted that Ethiopia will come out stronger from the process, I agree, I have witnessed it in the last 12 months with the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. In my Dad’s prediction, “Ethiopia, with centuries of sophisticated regimes, will always pull through.” I agree.
I am wallowing in my blueness right now, I know. I will find my perky positivity tomorrow, I am certain. It is easy to stay positive in Ethiopia, the country has my heart and always will. The history, rich history, the questioning kindness of the people and their passionate love for their country will pay off positively in the end. I believe in this country.
I speak openly about being divorced. I put it out there that I am a single mother. I have had one or two friends; Nigerian women, who have advised that perhaps I should not go public with this status, but I say noooo.
Those of us who are divorced; happily, divorced and blessed to be raising kids as single parents must speak openly about it. The narrative of marriage as the ultimate goal and end game for the Nigerian woman is sadly the reason Nigerian women stay in loveless and abusive marriages and relationships.
According to an article in The Guardian published in January 2018, `Despite high levels of violence within relationships in Nigeria, wedding vows are still regarded as sacred, and women are urged to stay with bullying husbands.’ The article noted that marriage in Nigeria is regarded as `a prized attainment, and there is a powerful social stigma around reporting violence, or, worse still, leaving your husband.’ A survey `found that 43% of women believe a husband is justified in beating his wife for a number of reasons, including going out without telling him, or neglecting the children.’
Women in Nigeria are celebrated in communities and religious institutions as successful women by how long their marriages lasted or have lasted, and how much perseverance to abuse they demonstrated. Yes, a long and happy marriage is successful, but the longevity of a marriage does not make a successful marriage.
Those of us who live successfully and happily with a different story must speak up. We must let women know of the many ways we are and can be successful. Yes, it would have been great if my marriage had lasted, but it is great that I am living a great life as a single woman than a miserable married one.
So, this is it: I am a Happily Divorced Single Woman and Parent, and in the words of late Maya Angelo, HEAR ME ROAR.
From 2002 – 2007, I worked with Sandi Hill my First Nations sister-friend from Sixth Nations in Ontario Canada, to raise awareness on the plight of missing Aboriginal women.
We traveled through Canada, attending and organizing vigils and marches. Today, it humbles me to see how the movement has grown, and how Canada is rising to take accountability for this. The `Sisters in Spirit’ campaign was launched over a decade ago to raise awareness about the alarming rate of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, including high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
A study by the National Institute of Justice found 84 per cent of Native American and Alaska native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. The report is the outcome of two and a half years ordered by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It comes after two and a half years of work by the ordered by Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister. According to the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, around up to 4,000 indigenous women and girls have disappeared or been murdered in Canada since the 1970s.
Sandi Hill, my Sister-friend, passed away in 2009. It breaks my heart that she did not live to see this day, but always, I am always in gratitude for the gift of our friendship. This was my statement at her passing a decade ago. In the light of the new development of the `Sisters in Spirit Campaign’, I thought to share it.
Written in 2009
Statement on the passing of my Friend and Sister – Sandi Hill
From: Choice Okoro
This is perhaps the shortest statement I have written while spending the most time on it. I started writing this message many times and stopped; staring at the page and/or into space. In the face of the passing of a loved one, it is indeed important to be in a space of acceptance and gratitude for the times we spent with them on earth.
And I am indeed grateful for the privilege I have had to spend time with Sandi while she was here with us on earth. But I always thought I will have more time for fellowship with her; she was more than a friend and colleague; she was my sister.
Sandi’s passing has left me with shock and a sense of loss that I cannot shake. To a large extent, this is because I did not have the chance to tell her how much I appreciated my times and work with her.
Sandi was a friend and sister. I cannot recall any that I have laughed with as much as I have done with Sandi. I admired her more than words could say. She had courage to stay positive in the midst of the pain and tribulations she suffered as an Aboriginal woman in Canada. In one way she struggled to work with the Church in finding healing for herself and her people. I walked with her to some distance as she found the most authentic way to work with the Church in resolving issues of cultural diversity.
She inspired me to be authentic in the work I did on Sisters in Spirit – An imitative for justice for missing Aboriginal women and to End violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. We traveled through Canada together on the Sisters in Spirit Campaign. That journey brought some measure of healing for Sandi. She gave me the privilege to see the issue from her eyes and that gave me hope.
Above all she encouraged me to travel the path of a single mother. She loved Jason and would ensure that Jason celebrated Christmas in ways she never did. We spent the Christmas of 2006 with Jason wondering if the mysterious Santa wasn’t really John, Sandi’s partner. Jason is still unsure. Sandi spent many occasions jumping up and down with Jason and `screaming sugar what a buzz’ after loading Jason with candies amidst my protest.
There is no word to explain how much I miss my friend and sister and regret that I did not get the chance to tell her so while she was here on earth with us.
I will miss you my dear friend and Sister. One thing helps me come to terms with your passing; I know you have finally found the peace that may have eluded you here on earth.
`But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary: they shall walk and not faint.’ Isaiah 40:31
On 31 March 2019, Los Angeles-based African-American rapper, songwriter and entrepreneur Ermias Joseph Asghedom, known professionally as Nipsey Hussle was gunned down outside his clothing company by another African-American. Hussle originally from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, was renowned in the rap world as a community empowerment activist.
Amongst the many gestures to celebrate his life and show solidarity with his family was the establishment of a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $100,000 for Nipsey's children. Nipsey’s family expressed gratitude for this gesture but rejected the fund-raising initiative.
The family explained that Nipsey left his family financially secure, so the charity gesture was not necessary. The GoFundMe has been taken off the internet. Nipsey was a savvy businessman who owned all his master recordings, his Marathon Clothing store, and who established multiple trust funds to make sure his kids and family would never need a handout.
Last year, India rejected humanitarian aid for disaster relief in the flood-stricken southern state of Kerala. In the past 14 years, India has refused aid from Russia, US and Japan for Uttarakhand floods in 2013, and for the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 and floods in Kashmir in 2014. India has remained committed to its policy of not accepting disaster aid from foreign countries but instead depending solely on domestic resources.
This policy emerged out of the humanitarian response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 by then prime minister Manmohan Singh. Since then, this position has increasingly positioned India more as an aid donor and less as aid recipient.
The world watched the politicization of humanitarian assistance as Venezuela opposing leaders used humanitarian aid in their fight for political legitimacy. Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, rejected aid on grounds that accepting aid would turn Venezuela into a country of “beggars.” Opposing leader Juan Guaidó linked his effort to legitimize his Presidency to the urgent need for humanitarian aid to Venezuela claiming that the humanitarian assistance trucks stuck in Colombia are intended for lifesaving.
This would not be the first time Venezuela is rejecting aid. `After a devastating flood in Venezuela in 1999, the government rejected emergency aid from the U.S, arguing that receiving aid would a threat to national sovereignty. While over 50 countries gathered to implore Venezuela to receive aid, many groups from Latin America applauded President Maduro’s decision to reject aid.
In Cuba, groups of students, intellectuals, unions and social leaders collected signatures in support of Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro. In Paraguay, a similar group delivered a "letter to the Paraguayan government", requesting the respect of the Venezuelan people's right to self-determination. In Ecuador, at least 100 representatives of journalists, artists, politicians and social movements rallied in support of foreign intervention of any kind.
Charlotte Dany in reflecting why on humanitarian aid is rejected at the 7th European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference in Bordeaux France noted that: “At least sixteen cases can be identified, in which states – autocracies and democracies alike – rejected humanitarian aid after severe natural disasters since the mid-1980s.’’ She observed further that between 1984 – 2012 some of these countries included Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, India, Russia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia. Not one of these countries is from Africa.
I have visited many communities mainly in Africa supposedly starving but discarding bags of food aid, mainly one form of grains or the other, shipped in from the West. In one instance, this community refused to accept the distribution of red sorghum because it is difficult to mill and/or to boil for consumption. Boiling red sorghum requires high heat, a lot of energy and firewood which the drought affected community did not have. Knowing this, the Western country continues to ship red sorghum to these people and the government receives it and stores it in warehouses unused.
A special message to African countries dependent on humanitarian aid/funding annually without reflecting on what this says about national statements of growth and economic aspiration; appealing for humanitarian aid makes a louder statement.